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and one of them that i'm going to be reading about is a pilot, a cia pilot named kim collins. and ken collins in this scene is flying the a 12 oxcart, which is, was cia's original mach iii spyplane that flew at 90,000 the. so mach iii is three times the speed of sound. and 90,000 feet at about 17 miles up.
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>> like the first drops of summer rain, and only a few months earlier, scientists at area 5 # 1 had been baffled by those black dots. they worried it was some kind of high atmosphere corrosion until the mystery was solved in the lab. it turned out they were dead bugs cycling around in the upper atmosphere blasted into the jet stream by the world's two superpowers rally of nuclear bodily harms. the bugs were killed in the blast and sent aloft to 90,000 feet in the mushroom clouds as they gained orbit. when i came across that detail, i found it incredible and thought to myself, what on earth, or that high up, are dead
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bugs doing circling around? i didn't understand being 43 years old, not living through the cold war to the extent that my sources did. well, i was 40 when i started the book. it doesn't make sense why the bugs were there. it's an analogy of what area 51 is. it was set up to conduct espionage on the soviet union. the cia began building its base there in 1955 with the u-2 spy plane because the cia want the to spay on russia and see what they were doing, and one of the other men that i interviewed in my book was herbie stockman, and he just passed two months ago -- an interesting side note that the men i interviewed are really in the last chapter of their
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lives -- but herbie explained to me what it was like to be the first man to fly over the soviet union in a u-2, and yesage traited crus chef and there was a lot of spying going on, but at the same time, what herbie stockman brought back in the film canisters of his u-2 was over 200,000 square -- 400,000 square feet of spy footage of what was going on in the soviet union. the cia was able to learn and understand that, in fact, the soviets were not lining up for world war iii as many members of the air force wanted to believe. certainly general lemay, a character in the book.
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you might call him an antagonist. when you think of the cia's job to bring information to the president based on fact, not fiction or speculation, that's what the u-2 spy plane did for us. i think that was an important notion, but at the same time, there were other elements of the government that were really pushing science as i write in the book, and i think here's where i get into some of the more dangerous areas and some of the questions that i would like readers to be able to ask of themselves about whether or not pushing science is necessarily a good thing. right around that same time or actually if you back up a bit, for awhile after world war ii we had an anatomic bomb, and then when we found out the russians also had an atomic bomb in 1949, there was a big movement towards
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creating a bigger bomb called the thermonuclear bomb which is how the bugs got sioux high up. the father of the atomic bomb at the time opposed that on moral grounds and said it was not a good idea to create a weapon that's larger than its target. in other words, the thermonuclear bomb is so big that it would not wipe out a military installation, but wipe out a whole city. the thermonuclear bomb that sent bugs aloft that ken coal lips flew through was a thermonuclear bomb that was 10 megatons and that bomb is big enough if it's dropped on manhattan, it would wipe out all five burroughs and kill 75% of the population down to washington dc over time so that's a bomb that's bigger than its target, and in my book, i think, one of the more
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interesting animal -- animal ash analysis i came across was how to prevent war. on the other side of the fence over at the atomic test site, the department of defense were practicing how to have a nuclear war. this spy plane that ken collins was flying was called the a-12 oxcart and it was just declassified by the cia in 2007, 50 years after its drawings and one of the characters in my book is the physicist who did those original drawings and helped build for the cia, but this idea that you could have these two notions working at once is a little bit complicated presenting a war, but practicing
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to have one, but the point i was making about the oxcart is you probably have never seen or heard of it, but its cousin is famous. i don't know if this is a military crowd, but it's the sr-71, the air force's famous blackbird that went mach iii and the sr-71 is interesting because it actually stood for mortgagally reconnaissance strike, but president johnson when he announced it fumbled it so think didn't want to correct the president, so they contributed the plane. [laughter] when the air force decided to take over the cia's espionage program, their idea was to have it be a spy plane that could go in and photograph a post-nuclear site to figure out what to
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follow up the bombing with, and i think that's one of the more interesting parts or perhaps more provocative parts of the book that i hope people will read and think about which is how these different federal organizations that we have work together, fight with one another on these secret programs that on balance perhaps keep us safer and more gnarlly secure, but -- nationally secure, but sometimes enter into the area of recklessness, and i where about that -- i write about that in the book as well, some of the weapons test we did out there in my opinion were reckless, one of which a project that was called project 57, and i tell the story through the eyes of the security guard who worked on that program. he was also the first security guard at area 51 during the u-2 program. he worked overtime so he could
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buy a new car and agreed to moonlight on this project 57, the idea that the defense department had. well, what would happen in america if -- this is 1957, by the way -- what would happen if one of our planes carrying a nuclear weapon would crash on american soil? would it create a dirty bomb environment? they didn't know and wanted to find out. at the very edges of area 51 in an area called area 13, they decided to do what they call a safety test, and in essence they set off a dirty bomb out there and contaminated 885 acres with plutonium. it's still contaminated out there so the idea of what is keeping us safe, what is pushing science, what is reckless, what is important -- all kind of
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comes together in what i think is l enigma of area 51. i could go on for a very long time. i wrote a 500 page book filled with stories, but to keep me on track, i'll take questions from the add -- audience and we can have a dialogue. >> this is interesting because it goes to the heart of your book, a lot about secrecy and how off-budget this operation was. what percentage of the cia budget was area 51, and how is area 51 justified? you write in your book that though the cia is certainly running area 51, a large part of this, and large part of most controversial things in the book comes from the atomic energy commission. >> that's right. the atomic energy commission is now known as the department of energy. they changed their name four times over the years. if you change the name of
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something enough times, maybe people will forget about it, but the original part of your question that i wanted to speak on that because it's very interesting. one of the people in my book that i write about at length, although he's passed so i think i wrote is from archives, but he was the first man to run area 51 for the cia, and that's richard bissel. he's famous in cia legend and lore for a number of things, but he ultimately had to step down for taking all the blame for the bay of pigs, and in my book, i explain a bit that he got the bad wrap on the bay of pigs, but so it goes when you work in that kind of business. asking about where the budgets came from, i found out in my richard that richard bissel was a brilliant economist, a yale graduate, and he became the executor of finance for the marshall plan after world war ii so there was something like $13
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billion that was at the disposal of richard bissel to help rebuild europe, and a friend came knocking at his door one night in washington, d.c., a man by the name of frank wigner, and the two sat in front of bissel's fireplace and he said, you know, we need some money for this group we have over at the cia, and because they had a mutual friend, bissel knew better than to ask more questions and just kind of agreed that that would be all right, and that -- those funds were diverted over from the marshall plan to the cia about two and a half years later, bissel became the subordinate to the director of the cia at that time and area 51 was up and running. >> okay. several people want you to cut to the little men.
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[laughter] i told anny before we started the last time i saw him he complained that he wrote, and it is if you read it, a brilliant book on the history of the civil rights movement and all anybody wanted to know was about martin luther's life. what were the little men that were seen at roswell per the first chapter? can you comment on the ufo connection to area 51? what about the ufos and aliens? go for it, anni? [laughter] >> curious crowd. nobody wants to know about war weapons when there's little green men to talk about. first i want to talk about the sources because it's important to me and as a jowrntist. i interviewed a lot of men for
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this book. really, the largest number of men that have ever gone on record about area 51, and they all go on record using their names, and there's one exception, and that is the source that i write about in the last seven pages of any book that many people want to know about, and this source remains anonymous for reasons of safety and security and also because that program, the program that he discussed with me is not declassified per se, and it's an interesting distinction as a journalist to make between being able to source your sources' information up against declassified documents as i did with the first 367 pages of my book, national archives, library of congress, declassified documents with the cia, the
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atomic energy commission, department of defense, department of intelligence agency, nro, nsa, i can go on and on, a lot of late nights looking at documents, and then there is a point in the book where i make a shift in the way i wrote the book. everything in the beginning is written in a traditional journalist form where you annotate everything, and you make clear where your sources came from, and then in the end of the book, i lean into the reader who i trust read the whole book -- [laughter] , and i say, okay, but that's not why area 51 is still classified, and area 51 has never been admitted to by any organization in the government, and that's a fact. they -- any of the declassified documents have the word area 51 blacked out or redacted. it's referred to as the test facility or the site sometimes, but it's only ever located in
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print twice by me, and i believe those were obviously errors so why keep the base secret? i lean into the reader and say here's why i think the base is secret, and this came to me from a source, and in the last seven pages, i tell you what the source said to me, and i'm clear to make clear that there is no documents to back check this up against. while i did get some very, what i considered to be corroborating suggestive evidence in archives, the actual story is from one man's oral history. the source was an engineer for eg and g meaning he had a top secret clearance and a cue clearance for handling nuclear secrets. i handled the sources medical records, his war records. i looked at the documents that he was -- the ser certificates
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and awards he was given by the atomic energy commission. he worked for the commission for three decades as a contractor. he was a member of the manhattan project, and the source told me in 1951, he was one of five engineers asked to solve what is called a wicked engineering problem. a wicked engineering problem means that it's something that no one has figured out and needs to be solved, but solving that problem will create its own new set of problems, and the source told me that he was one of the five people who received the equipment from wright patterson air force base, and that's originally what crashed in rose well, and it was a flying circular shaped aircraft. it was not from mars. it was from russia, and it was actually originally a third-like
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design. it discusses how a program called operation paper clip was put into affect after the war where america pillaged scientists to head up the aerospace programs. he came over and designed the rockets for kennedy, but russia did the same thing. they pillaged the scientists that they could get their hands on, and so this flying disk according to the engineer was something that had crashed in new mexico, and the intent was for it to be a hoax that stalin and again in 1947 here talking about the rose well crash, 1947, stalin did not yet have an
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atomic weapon, truman did, they were bitter rivals, and so stalin made a move, fired a warning shot over truman so to speak to say you may have the atomic bomb, but i have psychological warfare, and the war of the worlds and wanted to send this flying disk to land in new mexico and have people come a that looked like aliens, and the engineer told me that the child-sized pilots inside were the results of ghastly experiments in the soviet union. that's what he told me and i wrote it in my book the uncensored history of area 51, and the censored history. many people take -- many people in the book were not happy about
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that. they were john wayne out there saving the free burled, and nobody likes to hear about this possibly ghastly goings on in the dessert, but this is what my source told me. i stand by him, and it's what i wrote in the book, and it's obviously what a lot of people are skeptical of and at the same time, want to know more about. >> let me ask one follow-up before we get to the next one. so the reason, then it was not aliens, but panic of the population, would have been what? >> the reason for keeping what a secret? >> this program a secret, reengineering this disk, the russians were caught red-handed, why keep it a secret? wouldn't that be a victory? look at what they've done. there was evidence that he took
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some of the papers that were captured from joseph mangela, and this would have been a great propaganda victory for the united states. >> absolutely. that's a question i asked my source repeatedly. i interviewed him for over 100 hours, more than 18 months, and now it's been more than two years discussing nuclear weapons, discussing lots of things that i would fact check, and after interviews, i'd ask him another question about the subject we were not allowed to talk about, and he would say yes, and that was a question i asked often, and now remember, keep in mind, this individual also participated in the program so he was, according to him a firsthand witness, reverse engineered this craft, received the people that were the child-sized aviators, and i
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asked that question, and he finally gave me an answer. he said, because we were doing the same thing. the idea that the american scientists wanted to also push science, that they didn't want the soviets ahead of us in any program, whatever it may be, and i do want to say a note on that because another journalist said to me, you know, how dare you accuse the united states government of such horrible things, and my answer to it was, and i spent quite a bit of time writing about this in my book, while i don't claim to speak for the technology in the flying craft or certainly the kind of medical experiments that would create that kind of an alien-looking person, what i do speak to and what i do write about and fact check and source is what the atomic energy commission did during its tenure, and the wreckless human
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experimentation they did. president clinton put together a commission after the 1990s when a reporter revealed that the atomic energy commission had been experimenting, injecting retarded children with plutonium in a state school in massachusetts, and, you know, i see all the faces, everyone is like, oh, god, how horrible and people don't want to hear about that. they turn the other way and say, that's just horrible and go on. you know, i felt as a journalist that i believe what my source told me, and i believe that what he told me the reason he told me what he told me because it was a matter of conscious. the other four engineers are dead, and so it's just him. he was very clear about that. if a debate or a discussion ensues as to whether or not this kind of a program could go on, how long it went on for, i feel
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that's an important discussion, and it's why i chose to write about it in my book. >> you're listening to the public commonwealth program of california. of legendary military base known as area 51, this question from the audience. if the contents and activities of area 51 are less shocking than the speculation after all these years, why does the government maintain secrecy? >> we touched upon that as well, but i'll say i take the reader all the way up through the 80s, one of the last programs i write about, the f1-17 bomber. that was developed out at area 51 after the air force took over and sort of replaced a lot of the camera bays with weapons bays, but what has been going on
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since the war on terror began is certainly out of my need to know, and none of that, i didn't have any sources tell me what was going on there now because that really is obviously of national security concern because we're fighting the war on terror, but it's a place where the drones are test flop, and i write another interesting story from right around 1998 when drones, everyone is familiar with them now because they are used in pakistan, but they began as espionage platforms that only carried cameras. they were used in the bos kneian conflict, and they were not interesting to many people other than the cia, but right around the late 90s, this unknown terrorist named bin laden appeared on the scene, and the cia were considering assassinating him with a drone, and the way they would do it is
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attach missiles to the drone, and this was a radical idea, so they got together, the cia and the air force, and they decided to engineer these hell-fire missiles, the missiles are so accurate that the hell fire comes from fire and forget. you push it and forget. first, they had to test it out there, and the president's concern at the time is while the character is known to do falcon hunting with middle eastern royal faps, and what is somebody is important at the compound when we attack him with this predator drone carrying a hell fire missile we haven't used yet, so they built a mockup of bin laden's afghanistan farm, and that's where they practiced how to possibly assassinate him without collateral damage. this is before 9/11, but at the end of the experiment, the state
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department got involved, and there was lots of legalities about assassinating someone, so they decided not to do it. >> how could area 51 secrets be kept from american presidents? >> that's a very tricky and uncomfortable question certainly for this journalist, but in the very beginning of the book i explain to you that something that i found really pretty shocking when i learned it in researching this book that the atomic energy commission actually has a system of secret keeping that runs parallel to the president's system of secret keeping which is the national security system. that is not the way the constitution was written, but it is what the atomic energy act of 1946 allowed, so when the charter was written right after world war ii for the atomic energy commission, they created
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the system of secret keeping which the slang for it is called born classified. scholars who looked into this secret keeping system say that it's -- it allows the ec to have unanswerable authority, and that is certainly the case, and that is why the atomic energy commission was able to do so many things, the bomb test i told you about that sent bugs up to 90,000 feet, that thermonuclear bomb test involved 12,000 people in the middle of the pacific ocean. no one knew it was going on when it went on, so secret keeping is an important part of area 51 for some reasons, but it's also not a good situation for other reasons, and it is the source who tells me the story in the end who told me that -- i asked him, you know, president clinton
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looked into the crimes of the atomic energy commission, how come he didn't find out about the rogue program at area 51 involving roswell, and he said he almost found out about it, but he didn't have a need to know about it. >> why new mexico instead of a more populated area? >> that's not an answer i have. i'll ask the source -- i was kidding. no, i don't. the thing i write in the end of the book is i'm very clear about saying he said this, and according to the engineer, there are places in the epilogue where i speculate about things, and i go to some of my other sources and ask them. i ask the physicist, okay, you know, could we really have had a
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stealthy flying disk? the physicist had an interesting answer which was that he recalled sometime in the 1950s kelly johnson, the head and built the planes for the cia. kelly johnson had round-shaped aircraft, and at the end of the day, they decided that it just wasn't -- it just wasn't, you know, appropriate for a pilot to fly. it was a dangerous thing for a pilot to fly, so, i have as many questions as i have answers. more questions than i have answer, but i don't have the answer to that one.
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>> he's 92 now and he's at home riding, according to secretary, he's writing a paper on my book. and he just did an interview with cape cod times talking all he is accrediteaccredite d in general with inventing the concept of overhead, our first postnuclear, postwar nuclear tests in 1946, in the pacific called operation crossroads. and carl edwards was in charge of photographing those bombs from the air. and in my interview with him it was amazing because he explained to me all about how the base from which they left with all the camera equipment was the
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roswell army air base. at the time, that was the only military base in the country that had bombers that could actually carry nuclear weapons. so that area of new mexico couldn't have been more important to national security in 1947. >> somebody wants to know if it's possible, many ufos are actually were and are, u.s. budget aircraft of the united >> absolutely. one of the things i was able to source was the cia's obsession with ufos started in the 1950s. they created their own ufo department and it is all based on declassified documents. it's funny to read them because the guys at the cia in 1950s were really still gentlemen spies. they fancied themselves, you know, on the ground, this idea
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of science and technology was low but -- you see in all of these memos would have to do with ufos they are saying why can't the air force handled this? but, in fact, out of area 51 the u2 spy plane accounted for over 50% of all ufo sightings on the west coast. it flew at 70,000 feet which is about 13 miles up, and windows locked up in the sky it look like a giant silver cross. you can imagine people on the ground seeing something up that i would wonder, and, of course, the same thing happened in the 1960s when this incredible cia spy plane called the oxcart was flying at mach three, even higher up. there's a couple of great accounts and some of the guys in my book, colonel slater is a real cold war hero who i write about. he was the commander of the base
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for a number of years in the '60s. and he explained to me how often commercial airline pilot would be flying on the west coast, let's say at dusk, at 30,000 feet, and they would see the oxcart fly over, overhead at 90,000 feet at mach three. and people in the plane would see it as well and they would, the pilots agree to him, ufo, ufo. colonel slater would have to send the fbi do whatever it was the plane was landing and make the pilots and people sign inadvertent disclosure forms, letting them know they would be in real serious trouble if they told anyone about that. these kinds of things certainly only added to the ufo lore and mythology. >> you have five oxcart that crashed, and, of course, as they went out to get the titanium covers and all of that, obviously these kind of secret people went out in the desert
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and people saw them. and it all looked like they're giving something very secret, which was, but just not a flying saucer. which brings us to somebody asking why there has area 51 become such a popular element in u.s. and global popular culture? >> most assuredly because the conspiracies that are attached to it, we've talked about the ufos and aliens, but there's two other big conspiracy theories that are sort of embedded themselves in area 51. they are that the lunar landing was faked and failed at area 51. that's a big one. i interviewed a lot of conspiracy theorists for my book. i also interviewed buzz aldrin, the second man on the moon. and i found his testimony to be a little bit more believable than some of the other people, but that's just the journalist in me. but the thread, the link there
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is that over at the nevada test site, the neighbor area to area 51, there's these giant craters from the atomic bombs. i was lucky enough to go there was a couple of the guys who were in my book. and the atomic bomb craters, these giant cavernous, you know, things that look very much like the surface of the moon. and i interview a man named ernie williams who actually was a tour guide for the apollo astronauts in the late '60s and early '70s. they would go out to the nevada test site and put mockups on the back that they would wear on the moon when it finally went there. but the point was to kind of rome around the geology of the landscape. i have some great photographs of that but i think this gave way to some of the conspiracies
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about the lunar landing to another without touch upon allowed conspiracy theorist told me that area 51 is filled with underground tunnels, and that these tunnels connect to other military bases across the country. what i found out was there are a lot of underground tunnels. certainly at nevada test site under area 12 and 11. one of the tunnels is 4500 feet deep. that's a very deep. and starting in the late 1950s, the department of defense and the atomic energy commission would use these underground tunnels to explode nuclear weapons, to see what would happen to different pieces of military equipment, to see what could survive and whatnot. so that's where a lot of that mythology i believe comes from. >> here's something in the book, next question. which is when we talk about some of those scientific
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recklessness, something i'd never heard of before reading "area 51" was we did a high altitude thermonuclear tests that they knew in advance might endanger the oh so ugly. that kind of just wanted to see what would happen. true? >> when i first heard about this it made me wonder whether, when i was growing up in the '70s we were told we could use aerosol deodorant anymore because it was raining the -- it was ruining the ozone. i heard this story from the nuclear weapons engineer who actually wired this bomb. but there were too nuclear tests code-named teak and orange. and actually took place down and johnston island in the pacific. not at area 51, but the crew that worked at area 51 wiring nuclear bombs went down there. in the idea, the president's
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james killian. he had such power and persuasion with the president that anything he did, he did not have to report to congress. later in his memoirs he admits that maybe that wasn't a good idea. but at the time, james killian authorized this two headed nuclear weapons test, megatons thermonuclear bombs. one was set off 28 miles up. the other was set off 50 miles up. but 28 miles up is right around where the ozone layer is. and at the time it was, i got in the declassified documents, there was discussion among the scientists what might happen, and could we make a hole in the owes only a. this was an actual discussion. and the answer was yes, we could, but we believe the bomb turbulence within close back up
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that hole, if it were me. so they went ahead with a test. >> there a couple of questions from the audience about sources. the first one is if everyone is interviewed be sworn to secrecy, how is anything they say that able or believable? a variation, you have a top secret clearance? if not, what makes you think these people you interviewed told you the true? >> was interesting assembly things i've been talking about, like the project 57, the dirty bomb test that spread plutonium, people have said to me, i fast exactly that same question, that's actually not classified. those documents i located in the atomic energy commission archive. i even located photographs, edited looking like anyone else had looked at them. and i actually had a difficult time trying to find them. but once i was able to find
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someone who had knowledge of that and knew it had been declassified, i was able to talk freely with him about that program and he was able to give me some keywords that allowed me to look at the program and access it. the program is called project 57 but everything was classified under 57 project. so all of the programs that i talk about, except for the program in the end, have actually been declassified. it's just that a lot of them are kind of hidden or perhaps people were not interested in them in and of themselves. i think part of what makes my book interesting is that i try to give you the whole landscape of area 51 and its nearest neighbors and what was going on there. >> another one about the aliens
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who were according to your source not aliens at all. whether autopsies done on the roswell victims? according to his story, actually lived but were in a coma. and why would there remains still remain classified? >> the first part of the question was -- >> the first part of the question was whether autopsies? >> that i don't know. they arrived as bodies when they arrived, according to my source out at area 51. they were comatose but still grieving. one of them died shortly thereafter according to my source. and the reason why the program is so classified, according to my source, is what we touched upon earlier is that the government decided to embark upon its own program. what i'm also going to say at this point which is interesting is one of the most interesting
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and disturbing piece of information that my source shared with me was the individual who was the head of the program, and he was in charge of the mat -- the manhattan project. he was the president's science adviser and he was the one, you know, was in charge of this program that really is a mother of all black operations. that is the manhattan project. and all of the black operations kind of trickled down from that original idea in both analogy and also secrecy. you also point out for people who wonder whether something could be kept secret, the manhattan project, the size and budget amount and even the vice president had no idea the manhattan project was going. what was the budget of the? >> in the book. it was huge.
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the plutonium are the reigning in tennessee, that outfit polled more power off of the united states electrical grid on any given night than the entire city of new york city. and yet no one knew it was there. that's how powerful a black operation could be. the vice president not your referring to when the manhattan project was originally going on was harry truman. he had no idea about the nuclear weapon until he became president. and the person who told him was vannevar bush. >> basic question. by name at area 51? are there one through 50? if so, explain. >> that's the subject of great debate. even a lot of my name sources in the book will say that's just a quadrant that they came up with. but according to my source in
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the end of the book, the reason that it is named area 51 is because in 1951 the original equipment and the remains of the roswell crash came there. >> have you been called a conspiracy theorist, this audience member asked? >> i will let you guys decide on that one, but what i do know is, i've been accused of deadly been accused of being, you know, part of a government conspiracy to hide aliens. because my theory does not push the idea that aliens have visited earth. and i did get a letter from a group or an e-mail rather from a group in the u.k. furious with me last week when my book first published. they said even we don't believe you. [laughter]
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>> the truth is still out there. not here. wide area 51 show up in the wikileaks document? was only due to weapons testing or about any life or what? >> that's news to me. i don't know about that. see me afterwards. >> there was, a lot of the book is about reverse engineering because it comes up and talk about roswell and things. one of the significant parts of the book and reverse engineeri engineering, or the greatest greatest secrets was reverse engineering, it was can hand deliver $1 million by an iraqi pilot to the israelis spent it's a great story. one of my favorites and i tell it through the eyes of td barnes who was an engineer who worked out at area 51 on a number of projects. in 1966, the story that you're talking about made headlines when an iraqi air force colonel the affected from iraq to israel
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in the soviet made. and at the time, no one, no western, you know, no member of the western world had ever had their hands on a soviet made. if at all the arab nations flu and it's what the soviets comments block countries flew. so the messiah got hold of a. it was a very big deal to them. it helped them win the six-day war. but what didn't make the news was that after they were done with it, they made a deal with the cia to bring his mig to area 51. and td barnes was on the team that reverse engineered that in the mig. they took it down to its nuts and bolts and look at it to figure out what made it fly. and at the time we are engaged in the vietnam war, and our pilot over there were getting shot down in this terrible racial of nine to one. we were losing against the mig. the soviets were supplying the
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north vietnamese with the mig. and so there was a halt on the dogfight over vietnam wall the engineers worked on the transit out there at area 51. and after they reverse engineered it, that was called the tactical face. then they begin those called the tactical face. so they put the mig back together and they began flying it and dogfights, mock dogfights in the skies over at area 51, to figure out how to beat the mig in air to air combat. and what is not known until now, or kind of known only to the men who worked on the program is that was actually the birth of the famous top gun fighter school. >> there is another thing that comes out that mig been there that almost outs area 51 s. in the top secret projects there went a general decides basically to go joy riding in a mig. >> that's right and it's a
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pretty controversial story. there was a general who's in charge of the f-117 bomber program that was going out at area 51. and he became enamored with the mig, according to sources. and he wanted to take it for a flight. and he did and the mig went out of control and crashed in area 25, next door, maybe 20 miles from area 51. and where he crashed was right into this place where another secret program was going on, surprise surprise. and so at the time it was like we've got a mig program, the f-117 program, with to area 51. and you've got a general who is dead. so, newspaper reporter was leaked information that the general had been flying the mig and that program was outed in that way. and it allowed the other secrets to remain hidden.
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>> there's a number of questions about the advanced technology created in area 51, such as mach three speed aircraft, and why this is not been released commercially. questioner says it's on our current commercial aircraft cannot travel at a fraction of this be compared to what area 51 technology had half a century ago. >> our commercial aircraft? i'm not an expert on jet engine. i did interview robert abernathy developed the mach iii injun and it was super interesting talk to him about that. my understand would be and is limited, but it takes so much jet fuel to fly mach iii, the oxcart spyplane is basically a flying fuel tank. it out delta shaped wing that was distilled with you will. it could get from one coast to the other coast in a little over 60 minutes.
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so i don't think that would be cost effective on a commercial airline, he would not have any place to put your bag. >> plus all the midair refueli refueling. >> midair refueling is tricky, to. >> and a couple planes were lost, the stories you tell in the book. >> i'm going to say one other thing. i became a big fan of the cia's science and technology department, i must say. because the things that he did after. they did it in total secrecy without hitting any credit for it, but to refuel the oxcart come to such an incredibly fast flying plane. the oxcart had to fly at its absolutely slowest speed, and the fuel tanker had to fly at its fastest speed, you know, at the same time. and the oxcart would sometimes almost stalled, that's also it had to go.
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>> somebody in the audience says why did the government decide to declassify all this stuff? >> that's also an interesting question. they didn't because like all the stuff. it is classified the a 12 oxcart in 2007, and i don't know why. i have asked some people at one, and they have different images, none of which really answer the question. because if you're trying to keep a basic secret it would make sense not to declassify one of the major programs there. but that is how i was able to speak to the original source, and that is how i was introduced, one, to the next to the next of all different sources who make up the narrative of my book and to whom i am very grateful because, you come it was a real honor and a privilege to be able to talk to these men who are really a group of war heroes, sciences, spies,
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engineers, businesses who were known only among themselves, and now i think in reading the book you're able to see, had a real interesting window into what it's like to be someone who does all this work for absolutely no glory. >> there is a story you tell in the book, and people have to read the book to know that it's possibly the most frightening, that many fighting parts of the book, and it is a staged attack on area 51, to test the parameters for security, even though it was secret to many americans, the russians had known about this place, and watched it by satellites, and so security. if i understand this correctly, without telling anybody at area 51, and during the time of a nuclear test. >> that's right. the way i was able to protest
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were together was very interesting because the actual mock attack on the guard gate at area 51 is still classified. but what isn't classified is the fact that the nuclear weapons test engineers on the other side of the fence were working to get a nuclear bomb down into a shaft so that they could explode it on a weapons test. and so the story came from the guys who are over on the other side of the federal work on a nuclear bomb, not from the guys at area 51 who can't talk about it. but what happened was, there was this weapons test going on, and they measure, a system of measurement to get a bomb down into its hole, it's like x number of yards means it's this big and you have to get a certain depth before it is considered secured. otherwise it could still in essence be hijacked. so there's different layers of security. there watching this bomb go down, and a gentleman who was in
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charge of the program, my source in the book, he was in charge of a. and there he is waiting for this thing to get down, the nuclear bomb to get down the hole. and here is suddenly we are under attack. and they have to treat that as if the russians were attacking, or an enemy force was attacking because it made no sense otherwise. but as it turned out, it was actually a test by the security people who wanted to see what it would be like, how the cards of the area 51 feet would respond to an attack. and so they flew helicopter over the guard gate and were mock shooting at it. the alert when all the way to the white house, and according to the source, the nuclear subs on the west coast were also put on alert. >> sleep better hearing that. and with a live nuclear weapon in the hole at that time?
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>> and the test went on, by the way. >> a number of questions from people saying many, here's one of them, many in the united states military projects, including the f-117 stealth fighter, was a blackhawk helicopter used in the osama bin laden raid, developed in area 51. >> i would certainly like to know that but i don't have a need to know about that debt. sounds like it would be a great place to fly their helicopters. >> whether technology developed there, going to kind of a variation of the previous questions about aircraft, whether technology, famous questions about teflon in space program and all that, has gotten out into the commercial world at all weather was developed developed there is just so secret, what's developed at area 51 stays at area 51? >> that's an interesting question and i haven't heard about any commercial applications that tends to be
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military. and espionage based. >> including all of that? >> yes. >> first attempt at which was apparently according to the book something of a disaster. >> yes. u2 stealthy because when the pilots like herbie stockman remitted flying over the soviet union, the soviets were able to track them right away. they could and should condemn because they were so high up, but the physicist was called on board to try and make the u2 stealthy. it didn't work and one of the pilots was killed out there flying one of the planes that had been doctored up with some paint that was supposed to be camouflaged. and instead and made the overheat. >> unfortunately we reached the point where there's time for only one last question. and somebody kind of open ended for you. was there one particular story that you found most shocking or
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surprising of the things you learned about area 51? >> you know, everything that was told to me was very ornate and very interesting, and i think all circled back to allow me to create the puzzle, so to speak. all these individual pieces that in and of themselves were fascinating to understand the broader, bigger picture of area 51 was what i found the most rewarding, certainly at the end, step back and say, this makes sense and this is what it's secret and this is what went on there, even though it probably only know a small fraction of it. winston churchill once said about, and you speaking about russia, he said it's an enigma wrapped inside of a puzzle wrapped inside of a riddle.
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and he could've been speaking about area 51. >> our thanks to annie jacobsen, los angeles magazine columnist. author of the new book "area 51 an uncensored history of america's top secret military base." [applause] >> this event was hosted by the commonwealth club of california in san francisco. >> you're watching 40 hours of nonfiction authors and books on c-span2's booktv. up next on book tv bob drury recounts the final 24 hours of the american withdrawal from vietnam on april 291975. he profiles 11 green card security guards that oversaw the five evacuees and were the last to depart from beirut. this program is just under an hour.
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